Monday, 1 August 2011

River Foraging

I have been walking along parts of the River Nene, sometimes accompanied by photographer Kate Dyer, for our Three Jos in a Boat project celebrating "BB".

Alwalton was the furthest point that BB reached in his book "A Summer on the Nene".  The village is beautiful, very quiet, with a few unusual buildings.  Two footpaths to the river, one which takes you to a bend which seemed shallow enough to wade, the other taking you to Alwalton Lock.

The plaque reads "Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, born in Alwalton 1863

There are in fact two locks here.  Alwalton Lock is prominent on the landscape and there were many people around walking their dogs.

But following the path towards the other lock that can be seen in the distance, you enter into a cool woodland area and stumble across the most remarkable eerie green pool.  A small boat tucked away at the side. 

The way the light came through the trees and lit up the green algae was quite astonishing.

Follow the path the other way across the field and footbridge reveals further interest.  Wild flowers growing up to the side of the water, a splattering of bright colours.

One bank completely clothed in these bright yellow daisies

A conical building in the distance... at first I wondered if it was a kiln, but approaching it closer the windows suggested an old mill or store, perhaps?

At the other end of BB's route, Kate and I explored the area around Higham Ferrers and Ditchford.  On the map it was apparent that there were lakes scattered around the river in this area.  It appears that the lakes were formed by the abandoned gravel pits, where gravel was once quarried.  We wondered how this landscape would have been when BB came by here, would the quarrying still have been underway and would this have been a bustling industrial site?  Did BB write about this or was he only interested in the more picturesque?

Only occasional glimpses of the gravel pit lakes through the trees
BB did bemoan the fact that the countryside and natural things all around him were giving way to "progress".
"Look ye also, while it lasts." 
Perhaps he would have been heartened to know what we found:  as the industry has disappeared, nature has moved back in in the way that it does and is thriving!  The Higham Ferrers path is quite hard to find, but once on it there is a Nature Reserve and a haven of foraging potential!  We found (and sampled!) a great variety of berries coming into ripeness.  A little early perhaps?

Plums, sweet and juicy

Blackberries, abundant and delicious!

Sloes, just turning blue
We were heading for a bridge marked on the map but when we got there the bridge was unsafe to cross.  An elderberry bush had claimed it for its own and grew right up through the middle!

The bridge seen from the opposite side

Walking to the bridge from the other end, approaching from Ditchford, through a small holding with sheep and lovely chickens, past the sewage works, the area has none of the romantic elegance of some of the village areas that we have visited along the River.
Once you get back to the river, the roar of the traffic running right parallel to the river is deafening.  Driving on that stretch of road, you could easily be completely unaware that there is a river just a few yards away!  Lorries could be glimpsed trundling by behind the trees.

But still by the river nature carries on, millions of small creatures and plants living out their lives in parallel to ours, regardless of the road.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post Jo; that green pool looks amazing! I'm really enjoying reading about your adventures. xxjxx